Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

Dounreay project hits milestone

Dounreay nuclear site
The iconic sphere will be left standing on the Caithness site

The decommissioning of the Dounreay nuclear site has reached a milestone with a machine designed to dismantle the reactor core now in place.

The remotely-operated tool will cut away and remove a series of highly radioactive fuel elements stuck in the 1950s reactor's iconic sphere.

The Caithness site's operators said the process was "extremely hostile" as the core remains full of hot molten metal.

The reactor will be decontaminated in a process likely to take several years.

The actual sphere itself will be left standing.

Tonnes of radioactive liquid metal - a legacy of the experimental fast reactor programme at Dounreay - were destroyed in August.

Dounreay's two fast reactors were the only nuclear power plants built in Britain to use liquid metal. This meant their clean-up had to be designed from scratch.

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